The Flu Jab II

Photo by cottonbro on

I do learn, but it is often a very slow process.  Every now and then I publish a Little Fiction, often dropping back in on characters that I love writing and every time that I do so I am surprised to learn that nobody else is in the slightest bit interested in any of them.  I write an odd Guide to… and I am often quite overwhelmed by the sheer apathy that they engender.  A couple of weeks ago I prattled on about my annual flu jab for a few hundred words and not only was it (by my own very modest standards) very well read, it was the welcome subject of much WordPress conversation.  What I have to learn is that I am obviously at my most engaging when I have nothing to say.  Thankfully, that is quite often.

So, today I am reviewing my life, peering deep into my insignificant soul in order to find something with which I can divert you for a few minutes.  I have recently had my Autumn Covid Booster, I could tell you about that I suppose, but I’m not quite certain that the world is yet ready for ‘Flu Jab II’, even if the lady did drop my vaccination card into the Sharps Box.  Oh how we laughed!

I am lucky enough not to have been made ill by it and so do not have to take the Paracetemol that the nurse recommended.  I am happy about that: I think my liver is up against enough already.

Anyway, with Autumn on my mind, on getting home from the vaccination centre, I set about getting my bike ready for the winter e.g. chiselling the old batteries out of the bike lights before refixing them to the frame as close as possible to the light-clips that I broke getting them off.  I cycle a bit, not in a Tour de France kind of a way, but more in the manner of Norman Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine.  I do not ride a finely tuned racing machine.  My proudest boast for my bike is that the wheels match (or at least they’re both round).  The frame is probably best described as ‘robust’ in that it appears to have been made from old scaffold poles.  It weighs more than my car.  I have a lock for it, although God knows why.  If I am honest, it is probably worth more than the bike. 

I’m not terribly keen on all the peripheries that appear to come along with a pushbike: I have a helmet that I wear whenever my wife is looking and a set of lights that actually make my surroundings look darker.  I have a bell, but its little ‘dinger’ is stuck.  Not that I ever go far.  The local Co-op is about as far as I ever dare trust the tyres – the inner tubes have had their integrity challenged more often than the government.  They probably constitute the world’s greatest repository of Rubber Solution.  I’m sure that, if I asked them, the W.I. could probably crochet me new inner tubes that were more airtight.

I’ve ridden much worse, of course.  I come from a time and a place where bicycles were generally assembled from bits and bobs found in the bottom of hedgerows.  It was rare to have wheels of the same size and saddles were most definitely optional.  Mostly these construction were ‘fixed wheel’ and without brakes.  If you wanted to stop, you had only three choices: a) slow the pedals – perfectly effective unless you were moving at speed or downhill in which case you’re most likely to break at least one of your legs, b) launch yourself at the first available friendly looking privet hedge or c) throw yourself at the ground and prepare to tell your mum that your trousers were shredded by the pixies. 

The current bike, despite its wilful intransigence, is rather safer to straddle than those of my youth, and I am more than aware that any attempt to use a fixed wheel now would almost certainly lead several hours in a clapped-out ambulance before the fortuitous death of an impoverished pensioner allowed me access to a hospital bed.

As I said, I do learn…

A Little Fiction – The Fortune Teller

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Madame Zaza stared intently into the crystal ball and cast her spidery hands over it as beneath the table she pressed the button with her feet, causing colours and faint images to swirl haphazardly within the quartz globe.  The old motor whirred slightly and, not for the first time, she was grateful for the hubbub of fairground noises that surrounded her.

“You must cross my palm with silver if you wish me to translate what I see,” she said.  “That’ll be five pounds please.”

She took the note and placed it carefully in the tin that she kept in the folds of cloth that hung beneath her once ample bosom, a thin smile creasing her lips beneath the veil.  She returned her eyes to the ball, shifting her weight slightly on the cheap plastic stool that could only accommodate a single buttock at a time as she did so.  Oh for the days of leather armchairs and embroidered antimacassars.  Oh for the days when the aspidistra required water and not furniture polish.  The distinctive aroma of hotdog sausages, candy floss and toffee apples wafted in through the open window, borne on the wings of delighted screams, Taylor Swift and the general buzz of happy conversation and Zaza was aware that her stomach had begun to grumble audibly.  The caravan was uncomfortably hot and she decided that she would have to take five minutes outside after the current punter had left with a burger and a sweet sherry.  She would cut a few corners: as long as she gave them what they wanted in the end, they didn’t usually worry about how long it took her.

She looked up briefly into the young woman’s eyes in a quest to decipher exactly what it was she wanted to hear, because that was Kitty’s true gift (Zaza, of course, was her ‘stage’ name) telling people what they wanted to hear.  Allowing them to believe in what they wanted to know – persuading them that they didn’t already know it.

“You will have your heart broken by a dark-haired man…” she began as she always did, before sensing, rather than seeing the expression that flitted almost imperceptibly across the unlined face that stared across the ball at her.  “No, wait!’ she corrected herself.  ‘The ball is showing me the past.  It is telling me that you have already had your heart broken by a dark-haired man.”  She paused, taking the merest dampening of an eye as an affirmative.  “Recently,” she added, half-questioning.  The woman nodded.  “And you want to know why he did this to you?”

“Oh no,” she replied.  “I know that.  He told me loads of times, in great detail.  He said I was stupid.  He said I was unattractive and fat and he didn’t know what he saw in me in the first place.  He said that he could do so much better than me and that, in fact, he often did.”

Kitty was shocked.  She raised her eyes from the ball and took in the woman in front of her.  She was slim, attractive, a little mouse-like, but that was understandable. “Did he often speak to you like that?”

“Well, you should know,” said the young woman.  Kitty felt her jaw drop open.  She was gaping and she could not disguise it: she had seldom been rumbled so quickly.

“Oh, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to…  It was a joke.  I do that when I’m nervous.  I ‘m sorry… Why don’t you tell me what you can see?”  The woman placed her hand on Kitty’s arm and she could sense immediately that she had no intention to offend.  Kitty looked back to the crystal, but she remained distracted.  Her mind was in her own past and the man that she had finally escaped by joining this touring fair.  Life was not easy, but so much better without the maniac she had finally managed to leave behind her.  She shook her head slightly, trying to find her way back into a script that she had performed a thousand times, but for the moment, had left her brain a void.  “What is it you want to know?”

“Just the future.  It’s what you do isn’t it?”

“Yes, of course,” Kitty answered hesitantly.  “Yours, or his?”  She hoped that the woman would not say “Ours”.  She felt invested in the girl’s future.  If she could keep her away from him somehow, she would.  She had no idea how, but she would find some way to persuade her.

“Oh not his,” the woman scoffed.  Kitty could have cheered.  “I know where he is, and I don’t need to worry about where he’s going,” she continued.  “I want to know about my future.”

Kitty relaxed at once and began to wave her hands over the glowing crystal ball once again.  “Well, let’s see what the future holds for you then,” she said.

“Although, there is one little thing I would like to know about him,” the woman added.  “Can you tell me, do the police ever find out what I did with the body?”